Unmasked police blog writer in legal battle

A Leyland police detective unmasked as the writer of an anonymous blog after a Times journalist hacked into his email is suing the paper for damages, his solicitor has said.

Richard Horton, who works for Leyland CID, was exposed by the Newspaper International title as the author of the award-winning NightJack blog in 2009, which chronicled his working life in an unnamed north west town.

He filed a civil claim with the High Court this week.

He is claiming aggravated and exemplary damages from Times Newspapers for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and deceit, according to his lawyer Patrick Daulby, of London-based Taylor Hampton Solicitors.

Det Con Horton sought an injunction preventing publication when he learned The Times was planning to name him as the anonymous blogger.

The paper fought a High Court battle to go ahead with the story, which it won in June 2009.

He was unmasked after the High Court rejected his plea his anonymity be preserved “in the public interest”.

At the time, Det Con Horton was disciplined by Lancashire Police over the internet blog which carried criticisms of government ministers and police bureaucracy.

The ongoing Leveson Inquiry into press standards has heard former Times reporter Patrick Foster hacked into Mr Horton’s emails in May 2009 to discover he was behind the NightJack blog.

Mr Foster told the paper’s then-legal manager Alastair Brett and then-home news editor Martin Barrow about the hacking and Mr Brett told the inquiry he was furious when he learned what the young reporter had done.

He said he told him he had to find a way of establishing Mr Horton was the author of the blog through sources in the public domain, which Mr Foster subsequently did.

Mr Brett admitted legal documents filed by The Times as part of the case – one of which stated that Mr Foster established Mr Horton’s identity using “publicly available materials, patience and simple deduction” – did not give the “full story”.

Times editor James Harding told the Leveson Inquiry in February that he “sorely regretted” the intrusion and “expected better” of his paper.

Det Con Horton said he would not be making any comment, except through his legal team which also includes Taylor Hampton partner Mark Lewis.

News International declined to comment.